Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Shafi Behelim is 45 years old and will be baptized on Easter night. Son of a Muslim and a Catholic convert to Islam, for Shafi Christianity is an "integral part" of his childhood and his life. He describes himself as a "devout Muslim" with "great respect for Christianity", and in 1991 he married Shirley, a Catholic. In 1993, Ashna Rose was born (see photo), who asked her father at age seven to study religion at school and be baptized. The path of conversion began in 2010, after a terrible event: his daughter took her own life. She was only 16, and Shafi could not cope with this loss. Questioning God, he found no answers "to the pain, anguish, anger and despair". It was his mother to make him think: "Your daughter is buried in a Christian cemetery, and so will your wife. And you? You will rest in a Muslim cemetery?". Here, the story of Shafi Behelim and his conversion.
My mother was a catholic and Christianity was part and parcel of my childhood, but she was a practicing Muslim after her marriage to my father. However, I was always attracted to Christianity through my maternal relatives .
On, 28rdApril 1991, I married a Shirley, a Catholic girl ,but we had only a civil marriage, and living in a joint family, my parents insisted that my wife had to give up her faith and practice Islam. After a few years, we moved to our own place and in 1993, , we had a beautiful daughter named Ashna Rose. On 19th December 1993
At the age of 7 Ashna showed a great interest to attend the Religion Classes in the convent school, I was summoned to the School principal, as to the behaviour of my daughter to attend Religion classes, and after my written consent, Ashna Rose was permitted to study Religion in school.
I spoke to my daughter about choosing either Islam or Christianity and she was firm that she wanted to practice Christianity, so with my wife we approached the Parish Priest of the Church of St Antony of Padua, Kalwa to seek Baptism for our daughter.
The priest of the Church, said, that we would have to have a 'Church marriage" to get my daughter baptized and also spoke to me about becoming a Catholic myself. However, I explained to him, that I was an ardent Muslim but had the greatest respect for Christianity, soon after, we had a Church marriage 1st August 2001 and my daughter was baptized on 22nd October 2001.
I often accompanied her to Church and also went to Novenas to Our Lady since now we lived independently as nursed a desire for Christianity since early childhood.
In January 22nd, 2010, my daughter committed suicide, and this was the most traumatic and devastating event in my life, my only child, my young 16 year old daughter, was jilted by her boyfriend, and in her depression took her own life. I fought with God, questioned him, 'is this the reward, I get for giving you my daughter in faith?", I had no answers, just desolation, and brokenness, but in spite of all the anger and anguish
I was filled with the desire to be in the 'safe place' where my daughter is now, a place of peace, a place with no pain, and place of rest. I was besieged with these thoughts, because I knew, that my young daughter took her life in an act of desperation, but now she was in peace. My daughter was such a sweet girl, an angel, and she always wanted to be a light for us, so even I was broken with grief, I immediately requested for her 'eyes' to be donated, so today, she her eyes gives light to two young children.
In December 2010, my wife and I went for a retreat and experienced solace, for the first time, since my daughter's tragedy, and this strengthened my resolve for this 'taste of eternal life'. I sought the help of priest, Father Joe Gonsalves of St John the Baptist and shared my thoughts and hopes with him and thus began my journey to Catholicism.
Today, I feel, that throughout my life, Christ has been leading me through dark and difficult phases of my life. He is the Light, gently illuminating my darkness.
For me, Jesus Christ gives me the guarantee of Eternal Life; by His Resurrection, Christ conquers death, and for me it is most significant to be baptized on the night when Christ destroys death forever. For me it is new life in Christ who conquers death, Jesus is the rock, on which my life rests.